Normal Accidents (2016–2018)

Moving Image, 1 Film 7:13 min

To many people, the everyday world appears to be safe and reliable on a surface level, but constantly tumbles between stability and downfall below this surface and thus between a state of normality and a state of emergency. These two states, however, are only seemingly separated, as the possibility of accidents are always part of normality. Particularity in an increasingly technicised world, which is led by a desire for security and comfort, the downfall (nemesis) is always already part of the system, but is often suppressed by an overestimation of one's technical capabilities (hubris). Although technology increases security in many instances it also increases insecurity, as accidents are immanent to any technical system due to technical failure or human error. In this sense, accidents are normal in any technical system. The world thus tumbles always between these two states, which becomes visible in the event of an accident.

When accidents are not viewed as accidental but as essential properties of of technical systems, the event of an accident may reveal the true nature of these systems. In this regard, Paul Virilio has called for museums of accidents, as it would provide a more comprehensive perspective on the world compared to museums of achievements. In the event of an accident, a complex systems breaks up and reveals its parts and its relationships and that what was hidden in a black box becomes visible. In such an event, the familiar world and its habitual interactions break down and the things become visible.

The film Normal Accidents investigates the phenomenon of technical accidents by applying a forensic view on important historic accidents as well as a speculative view on possible accidents. It consists of a series of vignettes that provide a fragmented view of the respective accidents. These recreations of specific aspects and elements of the accidents render these accident visible as a latent possibility in the technical system. Furthermore, this close-up view on these accidents breaks the accustomed association of accidents with spectacular images and will thus allow to view them as ordinary rather than extraordinary events.

Project in collaboration with Clemens Winkler.